Successful low-cost trips, demand detailed planning!

Traveling can be quite a costly adventure if we don’t plan it carefully. If you wish to maintain your trips on a tight budget then you have to plan them thoroughly and with major detail.

Diogo Menezes Borges
Mar 31 · 7 min read

For us traveling comes up to three key factors: work a budget to travel, define the scope of our trip and plan in detail our vacations to make the most out of the short time available and avoid unpleasant surprises.

Saving for a budget

Therefore, the first question is: How to build a budget to travel?

As explained on my first post, my family and I, love to travel and believe this is one of the best things we can do together with most of our best memories coming from this group hobby. Since in Portugal we’re only allowed to take 22 working days for vacations, we try to make the most out of it, and travel at least three times in one year, on different occasions.

Therefore, we have to work with different budgets, depending on the season and adapt our daily living costs according to what we desire for each. For example, trips to faraway destinations will demand higher budgets whereas nearby trips demand lower budgets. Despite having to consider these trips in our annual personal budget, meaning we have to adapt our lives to accommodate traveling costs, my girlfriend and I do not stop enjoying life for someone at their 20s and pay rent. You can travel and still have a normal life. Adaption is key!

However, in order to be able to build up a nice budget for traveling each year we follow some simple rules:

  1. When buying something always try to get the best price or wait for prices to drop. If you can, secondhand objects are a great option to consider;
  2. When buying something ask yourself first “Do I really need this?” and give that thought a day or two. Most of the times, you don’t…;
  3. Only buy clothes on sale;
  4. When offering presents try to look for something meaningful, practical and affordable. Don’t just go out and buy the most expensive;
  5. Have your breakfast at home and take snacks to work. Take your lunch as well and avoid eating at restaurants on work hours;
  6. Avoid expensive habits such as smoking and alcohol;
  7. Hang out with friends at home instead of going to a bar or a pub;
  8. Try to work out at home or during the off-peak hours at the gym;
  9. If possible, use public transportation or a bicycle to go to work.

Defining your trip’s scope

Now, if you follow these rules and others to your convenience, you’re probably able to save up a good amount of money. However, the savings have to continue even when planning the trip. Therefore a second question arises. What is the scope of our trip? To where will you be traveling?

In order to choose a destination, you have to decide what type of trip you’re looking for. Cultural, countryside, beach, mountain, snow? Will you be visiting a single city, a region or the whole country? Are you traveling alone or with a group whose opinion you have to consider? How many days will you have to spend? Will you be traveling within the same country, continent or far away?

One website I enjoy visiting for great vacation ideas and prices is HolidayPirates! This website shows great vacation packages with low prices, an exists in different languages and considering various departure airports from UK, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and United States.

HolidayPirates UK frontpage

Once we’ve defined one or more places we would like to visit, taking into consideration the previously mentioned factors, we usually lookup how much it would cost us and the journey duration. The website Kiwi is a great option to get a visual idea of how much your trip would cost considering several destinations and departures.

Departuring from Porto to anywhere from 3rd of April of 6th April 2019

Lookup for low-cost airlines cheap flights, promotions, consider doing stops in other cities to get cheaper flights (for example, Porto-London-Los Angeles is cheaper than Porto-Los Angeles). See that if driving to those locations by car might be a more interesting option than by airplane.

Regarding tracking airplane price variation we usually use three websites: Momondo, Skyscanner and Google Flights. Always have in mind the first two use cookies to analyze your visit history, so try to use VPN connections, clean your cookies and use other devices and accounts to ensure you always get the best price. All allow you to track price changes and receive an email if there is a drop in price. Furthermore, for low-cost company price drop predicition we like to use AirHint. With this website you can see the probability of the price dropping and hence avoid buying expensive ticket when there is no need.

AirHint price drop analysis to Ryanair Flight from OPO-BRU on 7th April 2019

After defining the scope of your trip and the destination, the real planning starts!

Planning Methodology

So, you’ve successfully defined the scope of your trip and the corresponding destination! Hurray!🙌🙌🙌🙌

You have to adapt your timeframe for planning, depending on your destination. For example, imagine you’re traveling to the other side of the world. Maybe it is a good practice to have at least 2–3 months before departure to find the best prices and do good planning. On the other hand, if you’re traveling to a near destination a shorter timeframe is acceptable.

At the moment, we’ve already bought our plane tickets or at least have in mind a destination to go to by car/bus/motorhome. Hence, after having the scope and decide on the transportation, the planning for the next days or weeks will rely on:

  1. Research about your destination(s) and define points of interest

The internet is a great source of material to plan a trip. From reading traveling blogs, seeing the governmental touristic sites, journal’s touristic chronicles I get a lot of ideas. Pinterest and guide books are also a great point of information.

From this gathering of information, you start to get an idea of your route. For example, if the points of interest are all focused in one area or if they spread across the city or even the country. And depending on that information you start to make decisions.

2. Organize the route to follow

I love Google MyMaps! With this tool you can start to pinpoint in the map all the points you wish to visit and have a nice visual overview of how you will have to align your plan. By visualizing these points it becomes easier to make decisions about your route and which points are valid to visit for the time you have available and which are not.

Example of a Google MyMaps tour of London

Now that you have all the points you wish to visit, you can consider where to sleep. It is always best to select an area with a good range distance to all points or at least with excellent transportation nearby. Since we usually travel in a group of 2 to 6 people, we like to use either AirBnB or Booking for accommodation. However, if you don’t mind sleeping on a couch consider also CouchSurfing for free sleepovers, and we you to meet local people.

3. Plan the trip to daily detail (where to eat, what to visit, what to pay)

Since you already have the points you wish to visit and where you’ll be sleeping you can start defining the distribution for every single day! This is a fun part as well as stressful since you have to play with time and logistics. The further away two points are from each other the worse it will be since you have to consider transportation and time.

Usually, we use GoogleMaps just to see how much walking we’ll have to do or if there is a need to use transportation. Eating is also very important! Usually, we try to look for fast food chains or supermarkets to spare some cash. However, we always try the local cuisine and therefore try to look for restaurants that can fit into the plan! By trying the local food is also a good way to get in touch with the culture.

Always keep in mind that plans are prone to fail, I mean that you can plan the whole trip but might have to change somethings on spot. Nevertheless, is always better to know what you’re going to do then have no plan at all!

Happy traveling to you all!

If you liked it, follow me for more publications and don’t forget, please, give it an applause!

You the mighty reader applauding!

If you would like to know why I’m writing about traveling read my first post on the subject.

Diogo Menezes Borges

Written by

Data Science enthusiast and wannabe

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